Wednesday, 5 July 2017

Death of a Crimean War Veteran

Royal Oak, Friday Street, c.1925 [WL800/2]

Thursday 5th July 1917: The funeral has taken place today of Leighton Buzzard’s last remaining veteran of the Crimean War, who has died at the age of 82. George Wilson, of 85 South Street, enlisted on Midsummer’s Day 1844 in the 46th Regiment, now the Duke of Cornwall’s Light Infantry. He was sent first to St. Helena and then to the Crimea. By the time he was twenty had spent two winters in the trenches at Sebastopol, where he suffered hardships from lack of suitable food and clothing which exceed any that British soldiers have to endure in the current war. Although a piece of shell took the heel off one of his boots and another knocked a pipe out of his hand, he was never wounded, though he suffered sores from lying on hard ground. He was present at the Battle of Inkerman where he helped to bury the dead.

After the Crimea he went to India where he helped to put down the Indian Mutiny. He was among the soldiers who relieved Lucknow; he also attended the consecration service at the infamous well at Cawnpore, into which the bodies of women and children killed during the mutiny had been thrown. He was discharged after twelve years’ service. In 1882 he became the landlord of the White Swan Hotel at Hockliffe, and  later of the Royal Oak in Friday Street, Leighton Buzzard. He and his wife had seven children (four of whom are still alive) and celebrated their golden wedding two years ago. His wife’s grandfather fought and Waterloo and four of her brothers were in the Army. Two of his sons-in-law are serving as Sergeant-Majors, and four grandsons and four nephews are serving in the Forces. One of his grandsons was badly wounded at Gallipoli. Despite poor health for the last year or so he remained bright and alert, and had been following the present war with interest. Once he became unable to read the newspapers he had the whole of the war news read to him daily.

Mr. Wilson’s funeral was attended by a large number of people. The local police and a detachment of Royal Engineers from the Dunstable Depot led the funeral procession. The body was carried from the house in South Street to the Cemetery. on a gun carriage drawn by six horses, and was covered by a Union Jack onto which Mr. Wilson’s medals had been pinned.

Source: Leighton Buzzard Observer, 3rd and 10th July 1917

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